LONDON — Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s support continued to hemorrhage on Wednesday, a day after he suffered two shattering defections from his cabinet. Several more junior ministers resigned, Mr. Johnson got a scathing reception in Parliament, and the Conservative Party appeared to be maneuvering for ways to press the scandal-scarred prime minister to step down.
On a day of rapidly unfolding developments, Mr. Johnson vowed to fight on, trying to deflect the focus to new government tax cuts that he said would help millions of struggling Britons. But in back rooms across Westminster, lawmakers were meeting about ways to force out Mr. Johnson, possibly within days.
In Parliament, the Labour leader, Keir Starmer, delivered a damning indictment of Mr. Johnson’s role in the latest scandal, which involved accusations of sexual misconduct and excessive drinking by a Conservative lawmaker.
“Anyone quitting now, after defending all that, hasn’t got a shred of integrity,” Mr. Starmer said, pointing a finger at Mr. Johnson. “Isn’t this the first recorded case of the sinking ship fleeing the rats?”
Mr. Johnson, looking embattled, apologized again for backing the lawmaker, Chris Pincher, but insisted that he as prime minister was delivering on behalf of the British people. “The job of a prime minister in difficult circumstances, when he’s been handed a colossal mandate, is to keep going,” he declared.
The charged exchanges captured the dizzying decline in Mr. Johnson’s fortunes. Several Conservatives called on him to resign, including Gary Sambrook, a lawmaker from Birmingham who is a ranking official on an influential committee of Conservative backbenchers that controls a future no-confidence vote. This suggests that the focus may now shift from the cabinet back to the party’s restive lawmakers.
The two ministers who resigned on Tuesday — the chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, and the health secretary, Sajid Javid — did so after Mr. Johnson apologized for the latest scandal to engulf his government. Several other officials have since followed, including Will Quince, the minister for children and families, who at the start of the week had stoutly defended Mr. Johnson’s role in the scandal.
Their departures broke open a movement against Mr. Johnson within his party that has been building against him for months, fueled by a stream of embarrassing reports of social gatherings at Downing Street that violated the government’s own coronavirus lockdown rules.
Mr. Johnson had moved quickly to announce replacements for Mr. Sunak and Mr. Javid, signaling that he planned to try to steady the government and battle for his job. And he did his best to project a defiant image: According to the Times of London, when an ally asked him on Tuesday evening whether he planned to resign, he replied with the epithet “F- that.”
Still, by all accounts, the prime minister was in greater political peril than at any other time in his tumultuous three-year tenure in Downing Street.
A freewheeling journalist turned politician, Mr. Johnson seemed to defy the laws of political gravity, surviving multiple investigations, a criminal fine by the police, and a no-confidence vote among lawmakers in his Conservative Party only last month — all related to the parties held in Downing Street during coronavirus lockdowns.
But it was the more recent outcry over Mr. Johnson’s promotion of Mr. Pincher that appeared to tip Mr. Sunak and Mr. Javid, and set the stage for the latest round of recrimination.
Last week, Mr. Pincher resigned as the party’s deputy chief whip after admitting having been drunk at a private members’ club in London where, it was alleged, he groped two men. On Tuesday, Downing Street admitted that Mr. Johnson had been told about previous accusations against Mr. Pincher in 2019 — something that Mr. Johnson’s office initially denied. In what has become a familiar ritual in British politics, the prime minister delivered an apology on the BBC for elevating Mr. Pincher.
Mr. Starmer, the Labour leader, could face a reckoning of his own on Wednesday: The police in Durham, England, are about to release their findings of an investigation into whether he violated the law by taking part in a beer-and-Indian-food dinner with other party officials during a pandemic lockdown. Mr. Starmer has vowed to resign if the police impose a fine on him.